Assessing Hardware Compatibility
Those readers who are Windows-savvy will already know about the Windows Hardware Compatibility List (HCL) accessible online through www.microsoft.com/hcl. Windows XP, however, also includes a hardware inspection facility as part of the Windows 32-bit installation executable winnt32.exe that will automatically check your system for hardware compatibility with Windows XP Home Editions or Professional.
To access this facility, you can either use the Run command (open the Start menu, choose the Run command, type winnt32 /checkupgradeonly, and click the OK button) or enter CD-drive:\i386\winnt32 /checkupgradeonly at the command line. Either way, you'll get access to a built-in hardware evaluation tool included as part of the basic Windows XP software distribution.
As an alternative, you can download the Upgrade Advisor from the Microsoft website at www.microsoft.com/WINDOWSXP/home/howtobuy/upgrading/advisor.asp (scroll to the bottom of the page, and click the "Download the Upgrade Advisor" link you'll find there).
Either way, this provides access to the Microsoft Windows XP Upgrade Advisor, a software wizard that will inspect your hardware and report on potential hardware compatibility problems. This is a big step forward from previous Windows releases (which did not offer equivalent functionality) and can be a big help in assessing the "upgrade-worthiness" of potential target systems for Windows XP.
If you're lucky, you'll see the same kind of response from the Windows Upgrade Advisor that I did on the majority of your target systems: "Windows XP upgrade check found no incompatibilities or problems." As I'll explain later in the section "Potential Gotchas," this is not exactly a sure-fire guarantee of a successful Windows XP installation, but it's a good sign nevertheless.